The purpose of this lesson is to focus on one particular species of animal in our Washington State mountains; the Black bear and the Brown bear. 2-LS-4-1 asks that students make observations of plants and animals to compare the diversity of life in different habitats.
I chose to focus solely on Brown and Black bears because the information and learning that will take place will be used in a later lesson on Polar Bears during the Polar Unit. I want to establish the diversity of animals (bears) and their ability to adapt to environments (mountains and the Arctic).
I read the book Alaska's Three Bears during my reading block of teaching time. This book is an incredible book in that it pairs fiction and non-fiction text altogether. The top half of the book is a fiction story based on Goldilocks and the Three Bears. The three bears in the story venture into their own habitats and explain why they are better suited for these areas. It is cleverly written and does a fantastic job of incorporating literature with a scientific twist. After a couple days of investigating the fiction side of this book, I read the children the paired non-fiction text. This side of the book focused completely on the characteristics of the three bears.
On a side note, I only focused on the Brown and Black bears while I was connecting our knowledge of the bears. I purposely did not include the Polar bears. I deflected away from them because I knew I would be focusing on these bears when we moved into the unit on the Polar Regions. I wanted to be able to compare the three bears after we had gathered as much information as we could about the two bears in the Pacific Northwest.
After using this book for reading lessons, I did not clue the children in to the lesson that would follow in science. My hope was that they would make that leap and connect it themselves when I began to teach the information.
I was not let down. They picked up on it right away.
I ask the children if they think we have learned everything we can about the Mountain environment.
I anticipate the children will say that we still need to talk about the animals and they do.....I explain to them that there are many different types of animals that live in our mountain environment. But we are going to focus on one particular animal, the bears. Especially, the bears that live in our own state.
All children have understandings of what a bear is and what it looks like. There have been plenty of fantastic Disney movies that have supplied background knowledge about bears. Believe me when I heard this from the kids. They instantly began telling me about the movie The Bears...., even the movie Brave had quite a bit of information that could be inferred about bears. Many of my little girls made several references through out the lesson connecting Queen Elinor (the character who turns into a bear) to the actual discussions.
I tell the children that we are going to work on learning how to gather research like scientists. I show them a Circle Map that I want them to fill out while we read some text. The Circle Map will be their means to gather information and organize it while we are reading. Utilizing the Circle Map will be a great way for the children to read grade-appropriate text and and obtain scientific information (SP8).
I show the children the Bears of Washington State Power Point on the screen and explain that I want to read the text to them once. I remind them that all I want them to do the first time through it to listen and use all their observation skills to mentally gather information. This is a big part of the CCSS ELA standards.
I read the text all the way through. When we reach the video clip of the bear growling, I play the clip and ask the children to listen. The video clip is simply the bear growling and communicating. I want the children to hear this, because it will lend itself to future discussions about adaptions.
After reading the entire power point to the students, I explain that we are going to read it again, but this time we will use our Circle Maps to gather information. The children are quite excited to begin documenting their new information.
I pass out the Foldable to the children and begin explaining to the children what we are going to do. I tell the children that we have gathered quite a bit of new information from the text that we have just read and they have organized their thinking with the Circle Map. I ask them to take any of the information they have written down on their Circle Map and transfer that to their foldable.
At this point they cut out their foldable and get it ready. They are so quick to complete this. We have used foldables in many other areas of learning so this is not something that requires much explanation. Once they have their foldables ready, I remind them not to glue them into their journals until we have completed all the writing. Trying to write over the bumpy glue is not always easy and sets the children up for frustration.
After they have taken the time to transfer their early thinking, I ask them to also include any new concepts they learned during the reading of the text on the Power Point. I give them time to write and share with each other. I hear students talking out loud and this is transferring to other students. Comments like, "I remember it said....." One trigger connects to another.
I allow this to go for a bit of time. When it appears that the children have written all they can remember or have written on the Circle Map, I ring my bell and we move to the next phase in the lesson.
I ask the children how much they believe they remember after reading the text one time through? Many of them share that they really need to read it again, one time was not enough. I explain to them that this is good. No scientist would rely on research one time. Rereading is always a good idea.
I begin the Power Point back at the beginning and I read. While I am reading the children are writing. In the beginning, the children ask questions about where a piece of information should be classified. After about the fourth slide, they have figured this out without any more guidance on my part. They just keep writing and documenting.
Strategically, I have just finished a unit in reading on text features. This is timely because we are going to use the skills we learned with our text features to transfer the to this note taking foldable. This is not the first time my students have practiced the skill of note taking. The difference this time, will be the release of responsibility. In a previous lesson, we practiced this skill. When we did, I walked the children through the process very carefully and meticulously. In this lesson, I am releasing that control and allowing them to practice the skill much more independently.
I ask the children what they noticed about the information that was in the text we read? Do they notice any big ideas that we could group the information into?
The children notice the obvious groupings of the way a bear looks, where it lives, and eats. The unusual characteristics are a new idea that they are not sure how to classify. R.I. 2.3 in reading asks children to compare ideas in science. This is a nice connection and cross curricular piece for the children. I have to lead and prompt them to use the word "characteristics" as a heading.
After some discussion about the idea that the characteristics are different from the food, where the bears live and what they eat; I throw out this thought.... "What if we were to change some of our headings to be more scientific words?" Right away, I get excited answers of yes. The children love to use scientific words. They are incredibly powerful to a seven-year-old mind. So I suggest rather than using "What do they eat?" we change that to "Diet."
We also change "Where they Live" to "Habitat" and "What do They Look Like?" to "Attributes." The children love this.
While I am reading the children are writing. In the beginning, the children ask questions about where a piece of information should be classified. After about the fourth slide, they have figured this out without any more guidance on my part. They just keep writing and documenting.
While the students are finishing their writing, I am circulating throughout the classroom, reading over shoulders and observing the work the students have completed. When I see students who have all the headings in place, and information correctly placed underneath, I know they have grasped what I was trying to establish with the lesson.
I am more encouraged when I see students using bullets. This means they have also internalized some of the text features we have been investigating in our reading block.
When all the children had finished their note taking, I asked them if this information could help us to answer any more questions about bears?
They were not really sure what I meant by this question, so I showed them Slide sixteen in the Power Point. It asked the question, "How have Brown bears and Black bears adapted to meet their needs in the alpine environment?"
I purposely had introduced a new word into this question when I presented it. The word being adapted. I explained to the children earlier in the morning what this word meant. We added it to our vocabulary chart and even created a physical signal for the children to perform each time they heard the word during the day. This was that Total Physical Response that is so powerful. Connecting all those modalities to establish new learning.
I shared with the children that scientists need to be able to speak and defend their learning in a certain ways, and I wanted them to be able to use their findings to answer this question about adaptation (SP7). I asked if anyone thought they could use their notes to try and explain their reasoning. Again, this was not the first time we had worked on this skill. In earlier lessons, we began working on verbal communication and sharing of our thinking. However, this was the first time they would attempt it unaided...no sentence stems and no prompting from me.
I was astounded with the number of volunteers and the willingness to stand in front of the class and speak. No hesitation, no reservations....just pure trust!!! It was very exciting to witness. Some students elected to use their notes and some felt confident enough to not even take the notes. I had left the question on the screen just in case they needed to refer back to it.
The next morning during our writing block, I asked the children if they felt they could take the notes we had gathered during our lesson the day before and write a quick prompt about their new knowledge of the bears.
I asked all the children to choose one bear and one heading to focus their writing on. Each child shared with the entire class their choices. After this, we reviewed what made our writing strong, following the Step Up to Writing curriculum my district utilizes. I directed the children's eyes to my screen and we reviewed. I had the Elements of Informational Writing on the screen and we went through our notes to remind ourselves which pieces of the writing would fit with the notes we had taken.
The children instantly realized that the type of bear would be their topic. The heading in the notes would become the key idea they would address and all the notes they took would be the details they would include. It was the perfect formula.
I was thrilled that we had an opportunity to integrate the learning (W 2.7).